Rep. Gina McCabe named co-chair of DNA task force
Rep. Gina McCabe has been named co-chair of a legislative task force that will look at best practice models for managing all aspects of sexual assault examinations and funding options to reduce the number of untested sexual assault examination kits in Washington that were collected prior to July 24, 2015.
The task force, also referred to as the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination or “SAFE” Task Force, is part of House Bill 1068. The legislation also requires police agencies to ask the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory to test every new sexual assault or rape kit, as long as the victim approves.
“This task force is working to ensure DNA is collected from victims in a timely manner and funding is in place to address the backlog of untested kits,” said McCabe, R-Goldendale. “Other states that are addressing backlog issues have had great success in linking perpetrators with their crimes. The testing of most or all kits would eventually solve many cold cases here and around the country.”
The sexual assault evidence collection kits contain swabs and other tools used to collect DNA samples and other evidence from rape victims. They are stocked by police departments and hospitals, and are intended for use immediately after a sexual assault or rape has occurred.
“The legislation, along with the task force, will help sexual assault victims gain some closure and provide them a healing voice,” said McCabe, R-Goldendale. “Our goal is to ensure with a streamlined testing process that more crimes will be solved and bring to justice those who are guilty of these terrible crimes and may still be walking the streets.”
Once the evidence is collected, sexual assault or rape kits often end up in storage, a problem both nationwide and in Washington state. The Washington State Patrol estimated at a legislative committee hearing earlier this year that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 untested kits in Washington, though the precise number of unanalyzed kits isn’t known.
The task force must submit a preliminary report to the Legislature and the governor before Dec. 1, 2015.
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